Senate Protects U.S. Geological Survey, EPA Research Funding
The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved its FY 2019 Interior-Environment bill on a unanimous 31-0 vote, with the ultimate goal of taking the bill to the Senate floor, which has not happened since FY 2010. Committee members had agreed in advance to exclude policy riders that could derail the bill’s approval, as occurred in previous years. Below is a summary of funding outcomes for the U.S. Geological Survey and EPA – the two main science agencies covered in the bill – along with the U.S. Forest Service (see the AAAS appropriations dashboard for additional details and comparisons).
U.S. Geological Survey. The total USGS budget would be flat-funded, compared to the 25 percent cut proposed by the Administration, while the House Committee had provided an inflationary increase. As shown in the figure below, the two committees held some slightly different funding preferences across USGS mission areas. To briefly recap:
- Funding was prioritized for energy and mineral resource activities, with $7 million provided for the new critical minerals initiative launched by executive order in December 2017, and an additional $3.8 million to jump-start Alaskan energy production in the National Petroleum Reserve.
- Climate Adaptation Science Centers would be fully funded, echoing the House Committee in rejecting the Administration’s proposed cut.
- Landsat-9 development is fully funded, in line with the House and Administration.
- Both the Earthquake Early Warning System and the Volcano Hazards Program were shielded from proposed elimination, but funded at levels below the House Committee.
- Water-related research would also take a back seat, with the Groundwater and Streamflow Information Program funded at $10 million below House-recommended levels.
See the AAAS dashboard for additional details on USGS.
Environmental Protection Agency. EPA’s core Science and Technology (S&T) account would receive overall flat funding, versus the 8.9 percent reduction proposed in the House and a drastic 40 percent cut requested by the Administration (see AAAS Dashboard for comparisons). The Senate Committee dismissed the Administration’s proposal to eliminate EPA climate change research. Senate appropriators also preserved funding for computational toxicology research and the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, both targeted for cuts in the Administration’s request.
Notably, Senate appropriators rejected the Administration’s proposed “workforce reshaping" program that would reduce the number of EPA scientists through organizational restructuring efforts. The Senate Committee would prohibit funding for proposed reorganizations, workforce adjustments, and downsizing of laboratories. The House Interior bill, on the other hand, included the requested funding for such workforce reshaping efforts.
Meanwhile, the Senate bill would continue a prohibition on EPA using funds to implement a mandatory greenhouse gas reporting system for livestock producers.
Forest Service. Senate appropriators joined their House counterparts in rejecting the Administration’s requested cut to Forest and Rangeland Research funding. The Senate Committee also included an extra $3 million for the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) that was ended in FY 2017, and would continue support for funding opportunities and partnerships made possible by JFSP.